Five Questions With: Lynne Malone

Chief financial officer at YMCA of Greater Providence talks about the challenges the weak economy created for nonprofits. More

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financial services

Five Questions With: Lynne Malone

Posted 1/8/13

Lynne Malone is chief financial officer for the YMCA of Greater Providence, named to that position in November 2012. She has nearly 30 years of nonprofit accounting and auditing experience, including working at Meeting Street for seven years and at The Providence Center for 13 years.

Malone holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Providence College and is a member of the Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants.

PBN: The weak economy obviously provides many challenges for nonprofits. What do you consider will be your initial challenge at the YMCA of Greater Providence? From your perspective of 30 years of experience in financial leadership, are the challenges relatively similar, or are there new or more complex ones?

MALONE: The challenges are similar to what was experienced in the past, but are more acute in this challenging economy. One of the greatest challenges in any nonprofit organization is balancing our resources with the needs of the community. For nearly 160 years, the YMCA of Greater Providence has responded to the critical issues affecting children and families. We always want to do more to help people, but we have to set realistic goals in terms of how much money we can raise, what funds are needed to run the organization, and what programs and services we can offer. As we speak, we’re waiting to hear how the resolution of the “fiscal cliff” issue in Washington will affect the resources available for child care and other vital Y programs. The economy and political situations may change, but the challenge of securing resources and delivering impact remain the same.

PBN: What’s your vision of combining the financial needs of the YMCA with the mission of the organization?

MALONE: The mission of the Y is rather broad: building healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. We start by applying clear outcomes. What do we want to accomplish as an organization and how will we measure results? From there, we can calculate the cost associated and budget accordingly. For example, in our Out of School Time programs, we know how many children participate as well as how their reading grade level has improved. We also track attendance, parent involvement and some other key factors. To attract donors, we must show impact both qualitatively and quantitatively.

PBN: What is your strategy for consensus-building among staff, volunteers and board members?

MALONE: Each of us has an area of expertise but we are all aiming towards the same goal, supporting and achieving the mission of the Y. Each person has a unique perspective and talent to be tapped. The key is communicating clearly and listening to one another. As CFO, I feel it is my responsibility to help program staff translate their visions into a business plan so we are able to make informed decisions then execute them based on that information. We actually have a very specific Strategy Screen in place that allows us to ask a series of questions and determine whether or not we should move forward. A mantra in the not for profit world is balancing mission with margin.

PBN: Do you see any changes coming in financial planning or priorities for the YMCA? Are you expecting to make substantial investments in upgrading technology to achieve the mission? Are there other major expenditures required in the upcoming year or two?

MALONE: With multiple facilities throughout the area, we are always looking at ways to finance improvements and upgrades. In an effort to manage our long-term facility needs, we recently applied for and were approved for bond financing to support infrastructure development.

In addition, we are fortunate to have a dedicated base of volunteers able to help us raise awareness and funds for specific projects. Right now, we’re focused on a $5.8 million capital project at the Bayside Y in Barrington that will result in a new Family Center and Aquatics Center. That project was almost entirely funded by donors living in the East Bay who appreciate the importance of that particular YMCA in their community. We also just received a grant from the Champlin Foundations, who have been so generous to the Y over the years, to renovate the South County Y in Peace Dale.

As a human-services organization, staffing is one of our largest expenses. We have to make sure we attract and maintain the best staff to deliver the highest quality services. That remains one of our top priorities. Without those key people on frontlines, we wouldn’t be able to effectively serve our communities.

PBN: Do you have any new strategies to increase funding from individuals, corporations and foundations? How will the YMCA stand out in the stiff competition for funding?

MALONE: I think the key strategy for the Y is focusing our programs and services on critical community needs. We know that we can’t be good at everything, so we would rather be the best at a few things. And the funding seems to follow that philosophy.

Over the past few years, we have excelled in delivering programs that address a number of serious chronic illnesses like cancer and childhood obesity. Right now we’re revamping our before and after school programs, which we call “Out of School Time” to align them with academic curricula. And, to meet the needs of baby boomers, we’re expanding our efforts to deliver programs focused on Healthy Aging.

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